Espanyol vs. Rayo Vallecano

Espanyol and Rayo Vallecano head into Matchday Two of the new La Liga season in search of their first victory as they battle at Estadi Cornella-El Prat on Friday.

Periquitos erased a two-goal deficit to draw Celta Vigo 2-2 in their opener, while Vallecano kept a new-look Barcelona side at bay, drawing them 0-0 at the Camp Nou.

Match preview

Espanyol's Sergi Darder celebrates scoring their first goal on February 13, 2022

In their second successive campaign in the Spanish top-flight, the club based in Cornella de Llobregat showed a ton of spirit in their opener last weekend, scoring twice in the final 18 minutes plus stoppage time despite firing only two shots on target.

That draw will feel like a win for new manager Diego Martinez who faces a massive challenge to bring consistency to a squad who were in the middle of the table at the halfway point of last season but looked gassed by the end of the campaign, narrowly avoiding relegation.

Martinez has a habit of imprinting his playing personality on a team, though in his first league match, his side looked like the same struggling defensive unit from 2021-22, conceding twice within the opening 63 minutes of play.

Dating back to their previous domestic season, Espanyol are winless in eight consecutive La Liga matches, though they have collected a point in their last three league games.

They conceded the opening goal in all eight of those encounters, while this team have only lost one of their previous seven league fixtures at home.

Historically Periquitos have only dropped one of their last 17 league fixtures against Rayo Vallecano, with that defeat coming last season, 1-0, only the third time that they had failed to find the back of the net at home against the Red and White side.

Rayo Vallecano coach Andoni Iraola during the match on March 3, 2022

Rayo Vallecano were one of the stories in the Spanish top-flight over the 2021-22 season, sometimes for the better and at other times for the worse.

Finishing 12th in their first campaign back in La Liga was a satisfying accomplishment, however, it looked like it could have been much better as Los Vallecanos were in an early Champions League position, without a home defeat until Christmas before going winless in 13 straight encounters and flirting with relegation.

Andoni Iraola operates with a high-risk, high-reward approach, relying on extreme attacking width and verticality while using his tireless hard working full-backs to stretch and overload their opponent’s backline.

Vallecano have only lost one of their last five away games in La Liga after losing nine of their previous 11 league fixtures as the visitors, posting three clean sheets, two against Barcelona.

Despite being under their share of pressure in the opening match of the campaign at the Camp Nou, Vallecano held firm on the back end against a Barca attack which, on paper, have as much quality as any European club.

Los Franjirrojos have not lost in their previous five matches versus Catalonian sides, keeping a clean sheet in four of those contests, the longest unbeaten run for them against such teams in the top flight.

Team News

Espanyol forward Raul de Tomas pictured in February 2022

Second-half goals from Edu Exposito and Joselu enabled Espanyol to come away with a draw in their opening fixture, while teenager Luca Koleosho earned his second ever La Liga cap, replacing Ruben Sanchez late in the second half.

They were missing their top two contributors from the previous domestic campaign as Raul de Tomas and Javi Puado sat out of their game last week, while the club will be looking for Sergi Darder to replicate his play from last season when he led them with nine assists domestically.

On loan from Monaco, Benjamin Lecomte conceded two of the three shots that he faced in his debut, while Brian Olivan made his first start at the back as he and fellow full-back Oscar Gil will be counted on to provide some width for this team in the attack.

Stole Dimitrievski stopped six Barca efforts, helping Vallecano to a 0-0 draw in their first game of the season, Sergio Camello, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid, began as the lone striker up front, playing 62 minutes before being replaced by Radamel Falcao.

With their leading goalscorer from a season ago, Sergi Guardiola, back at Real Valladolid, the club will be looking for more production from Falcao and Alvaro Garcia who combined for 13 goals over the previous campaign, while Oscar Trejo had nine assists.

Andres Martin will not be available until late September because of a shoulder injury, while Alejandro Catena set up the only goal from Guardiola in this exact fixture last season.

Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lecomte; Olivan, Cabrera, Gomez, Gil; Darder, Calero, Exposito; Embarba, Joselu, Melamed

Rayo Vallecano possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; F. Garcia, Catena, Lejeune, Balliu; Ciss, Valentin; A. Garcia, Trejo, Salvi; Falcao

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